|Publication number||US6989527 B2|
|Application number||US 10/441,934|
|Publication date||Jan 24, 2006|
|Filing date||May 20, 2003|
|Priority date||May 20, 2003|
|Also published as||US20040232323|
|Publication number||10441934, 441934, US 6989527 B2, US 6989527B2, US-B2-6989527, US6989527 B2, US6989527B2|
|Inventors||Charles D. Bosco, William Sabados, Gary Maddux|
|Original Assignee||University Of Alabama In Huntsville|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (15), Non-Patent Citations (3), Referenced by (4), Classifications (5), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The invention relates generally to radiation mapping methods and systems, and, more particularly, to methods, systems, and computer program products for collecting and storing radiation and position data on a handheld computer.
Radiation monitoring personnel generally work in the nuclear power community. These personnel are trained to conduct radiation surveys and contamination surveys of radiation areas and radioactive contamination areas. Radioactive contamination areas and radiation areas may come about by way of nuclear accidents involving, for example, leakage of radioactive particles from nuclear power plants. Radioactive contamination and radiation in an area may be accounted for due to multiple sources, including surface particulate contamination, air particulate contamination, and radioactive “hot spots.” It is desirable to know and set up perimeters for safe working conditions in and around radioactive contamination areas and radiation areas. For example, the United States Department of Energy promulgates predetermined radiation and contamination levels, and safe working criteria for radiation areas and contamination areas as described in the U.S. Department of Energy Radiation Control Manual, DOE/EH-0256T. Radiation monitoring personnel generally survey radiation areas and contamination areas to assess, monitor, and establish controls for theses areas in accordance with the promulgated criteria.
To this end, many radiological survey devices have been provided in the prior art to conduct surface contamination surveys, air particulate surveys, hot spot surveys, and background radiation surveys. These devices include Geiger-Mueller counters, scintillation detectors, proportional detectors or the like. For example, a surface contamination survey typically comprises placing a Geiger-Mueller counter relatively close to a surface area contaminated with radioactive particles, measuring the contamination in counts per minute. General rules of thumb are used to convert counts per minute to curies per square area or other similar surface contamination units. Alternatively or in addition to surface contamination surveys, air particulate surveys are conducted by evacuating a volume of air through a filter and measuring the counts from particulate on the filter with a Geiger-Mueller counter. Generally, a cubic meter of air is evacuated in order to convert the counts per minute into a unit of micro-curies per volume of air. Background and hot spot radiation surveys are often conducted with either Geiger-Mueller counters or scintillation detectors. Radiation monitoring personnel place the radiation detector within a range from a hot spot or throughout an area of background radiation and record radiation levels with respect to position.
Often radiation monitoring personnel carry maps and record radiation readings with respect to their position on the map. However, compilation of map data, including surface contamination surveys, radiation surveys, and air particulate surveys is a cumbersome process. A substantial amount of time is required to compile completed survey results, and environmental conditions may render the compiled data obsolete. For example, wind, rain, or other environmental parameters cause scattering of air particulate and surface particulate. Therefore, it is often necessary to determine the effect of environmental conditions upon the survey data in a short period of time. Delays in the compilation of data adversely affect the ability to account for environmental conditions. Accordingly, there is a need in the art for faster compilation of survey data.
Until recently, radiation and contamination surveys were considered primarily in the context of the nuclear power industry, and regulated in the United States by the United States Department of Energy. Radiation surveys are considered relatively ineffectual in the event of a nuclear bomb detonation, as the magnitude of radiation is dramatically higher. Therefore, civilian emergency response personnel, such as firefighters, emergency medical technicians, police officers, etc. were not trained to conduct such surveys. Accordingly, radiation survey equipment has remained very technical and specific to nuclear power industry trained radiation monitoring personnel. As a result, civilian emergency response personnel may find it rather difficult to use existing survey equipment.
Today, however, it is thought that terrorists may procure nuclear materials to combine with standard ordnance in order to produce a “dirty” bomb. Such a bomb would spread radiation using conventional explosives. The immediate damage of a bomb of this type is limited to the surrounding people and property. The larger problem is the wide distribution of radioactive particulate, which would pose a long term danger.
Civilian emergency response personnel are more likely to be the first responders to the scene of a “dirty” bomb explosion. Civilian emergency response personnel will have to rapidly assess the situation and care for the immediate casualties. Just as importantly, they must be able to assess the extent of the radiation threat so that they can evacuate people, control access, and begin clean up. In the case of a large bomb blast, the affected area may be very large and the intensity of the radiation may vary extensively. The surveys will be taken manually in a manner similar to the surveys described above. Therefore, civilian emergency response personnel now have a need for effective radiation survey equipment, which is simpler than the survey equipment used by nuclear industry trained radiation monitoring personnel.
Additionally, civilian emergency response personnel will compile the radiation survey data in a manner similar to that of the previously described compilation by nuclear power industry radiation monitoring personnel. For the same reasons, it is necessary to assess the survey results and determine the affect of environmental conditions upon the survey data in a short period of time. Therefore, these centers will require the ability to receive survey data as quickly as possible.
Accordingly, there is a need in the art to have the ability to quickly compile radiation survey data. A radiation surveying device for this purpose should be easily used by both nuclear industry trained radiation monitoring personnel and civilian emergency response personnel alike. It would also be advantageous for the device to be small and portable. As such, it may be hand carried into areas of radiation and contamination for quick and effective compilation of radiation data in real time. Furthermore, there is an additional need for quick transmission of radiation survey data to places remote from the radiation and contamination areas.
According to one embodiment of the invention, a system addresses the aforementioned problems and others in a handheld system for collecting and storing radiation and position data over large areas. The radiation data and position data of such a handheld system may be transmitted to a remote system for universal data collection. A remote system can produce a real time map of an affected area by displaying the intensity of radiation at enough locations to allow emergency personnel to rapidly isolate the danger areas. In one embodiment, the handheld system can wirelessly transmit data to the remote system while one or more emergency workers are traversing a radiation area.
According to one embodiment, a handheld system for collecting and storing radiation data comprises a handheld computer, a radiation detector, and a position detector. The radiation detector and position detector are interconnected to the computer to provide radiation and position data. The computer generally comprises a microprocessor, a storage medium, and a serial interface for interconnecting to the radiation detector and the position detector. The radiation detector typically provides radiation data in serial format to the microprocessor. Similarly the position detector typically provides position data such as latitude and longitude from a global positioning system. A computer program code is disposed on the computer and retrieves data from the position detector and the radiation detector. The radiation data and position data are time correlated and stored in the computer storage medium.
Also according to an embodiment of the invention, a computer program product for retrieving and storing radiation data from the serial interface on a handheld computer may include multiple executable portions. One executable portion is adapted to retrieve and time scale average serial radiation data from a radiation detector. Time scale averaging often comprises averaging counted radiation impulses over a sliding time scale. A resultant average is therefore provided at a time in counts per minute. Another executable portion retrieves serial position data from the position detector concurrent to and independent of retrieving radiation data. As such, both the radiation data and position data may be correlated with respect to time and stored in the computer storage medium. Other embodiments of a computer program product may include additional executable portions that operate wireless transmitters for transmitting correlated radiation and position data. Also an executable portion may generate cues, such as audible or visual alarms and displays for communicating radiation data and position data to a user of the handheld computer.
Another aspect of the invention includes a method of mapping radiation with a handheld system comprising a handheld computer, a position detector, and a radiation detector. The method includes carrying the system into an area of radioactivity and retrieving the radiation data from the radiation detector to the handheld computer. Position data is retrieved from the position detector concurrent to the step of retrieving radiation data. Both the radiation data and the position data are time correlated and stored in a computer storage medium.
A method of training personnel to map radiation with a system comprising a computer and a position detector is also provided. The method includes carrying the system to a training area which may typically simulate an area of radioactivity. Position data is retrieved from the position detector to the handheld computer, and corresponding radiation data is retrieved from the computer storage medium in the handheld computer. This radiation data is simulated data to provide the user with simulation of higher radiation levels. The radiation data and the position data are correlated corresponding to a time, and the correlated data is stored in the computer storage medium.
Having thus described the invention in general terms, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, which are not necessarily drawn to scale, and wherein:
The inventions now will be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which some, but not all embodiments of the inventions are shown. Indeed, these inventions may be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will satisfy applicable legal requirements. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout.
Such radiation and contamination areas may be the result of nuclear accidents or incidents, as described above, and the invention therefore provides a portable handheld system 10 to quickly and effectively map and communicate areas of radiation to a remote system 20. The remote system 20 may likewise receive radiation data from multiple handheld systems 10 a, 10 b, 10 c for synthesis of a universal map of radiation and contamination throughout a nuclear accident area. The radiation data may comprise multiple types of measurement including background radiation, surface contamination, air particulate radiation measurements, hot spot radiation, or other types of radiation measurements. Accordingly, as used herein, the term radiation data corresponds to any or all of these types of radiation measurements.
The handheld computer 18 of the system 10 may advantageously comprise any handheld personal computers that are commonly available in many commercial embodiments. These handheld personal computers typically comprise a microprocessor and an operating system stored on an internal storage medium. The operating system controls the execution of computer program codes and allocates computer resources, job control, input/output control, and file management. These personal computers also include a user interface and display, such as a graphic user interface, that permits the user to provide commands and input/output to the operating system in execution of the described functions. In this case, the user interface permits operation and execution of computer program product or code that interfaces with the communications ports to which the radiation detector 12 and GPS position detector 14 are connected.
In one embodiment of a handheld system 10, the handheld computer 18 comprises a Compaq IPAQ manufactured by the Compaq Corporation and associated peripherals. Generally, the Compaq IPAQ comprises an operating system such as Windows CE available from Microsoft Corporation, and permits the execution of computer program code to retrieve data from the communications interfaces to which the GPS position detector and radiation detector are associated. The serial interface 16 described in
GPS position detectors 14 generally provide position data in accordance with National Marine and Electronics Association standards, which defines the electrical interface and data protocol for communications between marine instrumentation. These standards are available from the National Marine and Electronics Association, P.O. Box 3435, New Bern, N.C. Generally, position data is provided in ASCII format corresponding to codes under the NMEA-0183 standard and in this case provided in serial format to a handheld computer. Additional data is often provided concurrent to position data according to NMEA-0183. This additional data may be advantageously used for various purposes consistent with the basic function of a handheld system for collecting and storing radiation data and in addition to the functions already described without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. For example, many GPS systems also provide elevation data, bearing and distance to a waypoint, the number of satellites in view, heading of the GPS device, speed over ground, and other similar dead reckoning type data. While a GPS position detector provides one advantageous embodiment due to prominent commercial availability, other position detectors may be substituted for the GPS position detector without departing from the spirit or scope of the present invention. Other position detectors include, for example, Loran navigation systems, satellite navigation systems, dead reckoning systems, and gyroscopic navigation systems.
The GPS position detector 14 of this particular embodiment comprises a TELETYPE CF GPS receiver available from World Navigator, product number 1358, series number 1359, which includes a PCMCIA interface for interconnection to the serial interface 16. In this regard, it is advantageous that the GPS position detector be readily interfaced via a serial connection to a personal computer. As such, the interface with a communications port may be controlled and managed by an operating system such as previously described.
The radiation detector 12 may comprise any commercially available radiation detectors and include Geiger-Mueller detectors, scintillation detectors, and proportional detectors. In particular, Geiger-Mueller radiation detectors advantageously permit the ability to survey raw counts of radiation data regardless of the type of radiation and is practical for large scale low cost applications. Geiger-Mueller tube type counters generally comprise a pair of electrodes surrounded by helium or argon. As radiation, either alpha, beta, or gamma, enters the tube, it ionizes the helium or argon gas and the ions are attracted to the electrodes generating an electric current. The current is therefore a pulse, which may be counted by a scalar. A single count occurs anytime the gas is ionized. This raw data count is therefore provided by the scalar in serial format to the computer 18 for further processing by way of time scale averaging.
The radiation detector 12 of this particular embodiment comprises a GM-10 radiation detector available from Black Cat Systems. The GM-10 is a counter type radiation detector and comprises a Geiger-Mueller tube commonly referred to as a Geiger counter that detects alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. The GM-10 is compatible with a serial interface 16 of the handheld computer 18 by way of an auxiliary PCMCIA card, which in this embodiment is interfaced to the handheld computer 18 by way of a dual-slot PC card expansion pack. Advantageously, the GM-10 is powered from the computer's serial port and therefore does not require additional power supply. This advantageous embodiment permits a relatively small and portable handheld system facilitating ease of use while surveying a radiation area.
The foregoing specific embodiments of the position detector, radiation detector, and handheld computer therefore provide one economically advantageous embodiment of the invention which is produced from commercially available hardware components. However, technology is generally progressing toward smaller and more easily integrated handheld computers, radiation detectors, and position detectors that include multiple interfaces, and higher data processing speeds. Accordingly, it will be obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art that other handheld computers, radiation detectors, and position detectors may be substituted in any combination without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention.
Referring now to
Also according to this embodiment, the radiation data retrieved from the GM-10 are serial counts from the Geiger-Mueller tube. Serial counts are time scale averaged block 34 to provide radiation data in the commonly used form of counts per minute (CPM). In one embodiment, time scale averaging of the radiation data comprises a sliding time scale wherein counts are received over a period of time such as 60 seconds, and counts for those 60 seconds are added up to determine counts per minute. As time progresses, the time scale correspondingly slides adding the most recent time data and eliminating the oldest time data. For example, in a five-second increment, the latest five seconds and previous 55 seconds may be counted, discarding the first five seconds of the previous data. These and many other methods of time scale averaging of Geiger-Mueller counting data, scintillation detector counting data, and proportional detector counting data are known to those of ordinary skill in the art and may be substituted accordingly.
Upon time scale averaging the radiation data and retrieving the GPS data, selected predetermined intervals may be chosen to time retrieve GPS data and radiation data. The predetermined intervals permit correlation the GPS data and radiation data block 36 in a table according to the chosen intervals. The intervals may be either a time, position, or particular distance, and as such provide a table that may be plotted by position and radiation according to the intervals. The plotting of tables therefore advantageously aids the examination of the data to determine the extent of the radiation. The time correlated data is stored in computer storage medium block 38 of the handheld computer. Again, the computer storage medium may comprise all types of volatile or non-volatile storage medium as known to those of ordinary skill. According to one embodiment, storing in computer storage medium comprises transferring the radiation data and position data to a data table in comma delimited format as commonly used by spreadsheets and other software data table applications. The stored radiation and position data may be subsequently transmitted block 40 by the wireless modem or other transmission device to the remote computer for a collection of multiple handheld systems radiation data and position data.
It is also important that personnel who collect the data be aware of the radiation levels in the area from which they are taking samples. Therefore, a cue, such as an audible alarm block 44 set to greater than a predetermined value block 42, is provided to warn the user that radiation may have exceeded a predetermined value. The predetermined value may be chosen according to the desired safety concerns for protecting personnel monitoring radiation areas or contamination areas. Other cues may be established, including visual cues displayed on the graphic output block 39 of the handheld computer. These and other cues need not be established with respect to predetermined limits but may advantageously include continuous cues, such as real time read outs of radiation data. Similarly, it may be advantageous to provide general readings of GPS data or other position data by way of a screen display so that the user may easily view and consider his position with respect to the radiation data.
Upon receiving GPS position data in latitude and longitude format, the GPS position data is then converted to a distance and direction away from the predetermined geographic position. For example, the distance and direction may be marked in cardinal points (North, South, East, and West) away from the predetermined geographic position. Generally, two perpendicular cardinal points are chosen relative to the predetermined geographic position. For example, the direction and distance may be given in some distance D1 North and D2 West of the predetermined geographic position. Other methods of converting to distance and direction may include providing a range and compass direction from the predetermined geographic position. For example, the direction and position may be given as some range, R, in a direction, XXX degrees, from the predetermined geographic position.
One advantageous method to convert latitude and longitude comprises converting the GPS position data to Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) data block 52, which is commonly used by those of ordinary skill in the art to determine position data based on sectors of the globe. Like latitude and longitude, UTM coordinates identify a unique position. Unlike latitude and longitude, the position is identified in distances relating to X and Y coordinates from origins within particular sectors (the X and Y axes corresponding to axes of the cardinal points, North, South, East, and West). UTM units are identified in meters from an X, Y origin, and therefore permits a user to consider distances in terms more familiar than latitude and longitude units, degrees and minutes of degrees. As such, UTM is often more practical to a user than latitude and longitude, particularly when the user is surveying areas in relative distances.
Personnel carry the handheld system to a training area corresponding to the position data block 66. As personnel progress through various positions in the training area, the handheld system collects actual GPS position data block 68 and searches the table to retrieve corresponding simulated radiation data block 70. The collected simulation radiation data and actual GPS data are then correlated to a time block 72 and stored in a storage medium for further transfer to a remote system, such as previously described in conjunction with
The foregoing has therefore described a handheld system, methods of using a handheld system, computer program products for a handheld system for collecting and storing radiation data and position data in the event of a nuclear accident or for use in training emergency personnel for such an event. In the event of a major radiation accident or attack, emergency personnel will survey the affected area. As the system is being moved, Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) location and radiation intensity may be continuously measured and transmitted to a remote system. Since airborne radiated particles can move before settling on the ground, the system can be used to continuously update a completed map. Therefore, the invention advantageously improves the ability of emergency personnel to monitor and update radiation data through a very large area. As multiple handheld systems may be used, a large area may be quickly mapped allowing emergency personnel to quickly and continuous assess the safety risks in the affected area.
As indicated above, the method collecting and storing radiation and position data may be embodied by a computer program product that directs the operation of a handheld computer or the like to monitor interfaces and issue appropriate commands to the data transfer devices. In this regard, the computer program product includes a computer-readable storage medium, such as the non-volatile storage medium, and computer-readable program code portions, such as a series of computer instructions, embodied in the computer-readable storage medium. Typically, the computer program is stored by a storage medium and executed by an associated processing unit, such as the handheld computer or the like.
In this regard,
Accordingly, blocks or steps of the block diagram, flowchart, or control flow illustrations support combinations specified functions, combinations of steps for performing the specified functions, and program instructions for performing the specified functions. It will also be understood that each block or step of the block diagram, flowchart, or control flow illustrations, and combinations of blocks or steps, can be implemented by special purpose hardware-based computer systems which perform the specified functions or steps, or combinations of special purpose hardware and computer instructions.
Many modifications and other embodiments of the inventions set forth herein will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which these inventions pertain having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the inventions are not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.
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|International Classification||G01T1/169, G01V5/00|
|Aug 18, 2003||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA IN HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:BOSCO, CHARLES D.;SABADOS, WILLIAM;MADDUX, GARY;REEL/FRAME:014400/0073
Effective date: 20030730
|Aug 3, 2009||REMI||Maintenance fee reminder mailed|
|Jan 24, 2010||LAPS||Lapse for failure to pay maintenance fees|
|Mar 16, 2010||FP||Expired due to failure to pay maintenance fee|
Effective date: 20100124